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Even the production of numbers is guided by the kinds of questions asked of the subjects, so is essentially subjective, although it appears less so than qualitative research data.: an area of study that would benefit from qualitative research would be that of students’ learning styles and approaches to study, which are described and understood subjectively by students.
The Household Survey and Census ask closed questions, and often market researchers who stop you in the street do too.
You might ask them to indicate how true for them a certain statement was felt to be, and this too can provide both a closed response, and one which can be quantified (30% of those asked said they never ate rice, while 45% said they did so regularly at least once a week... The problem with closed questions is that they limit the response the interviewee can give and do not enable them to think deeply or test their real feelings or values.
However, often collections of statistics and number crunching are not the answer to understanding meanings, beliefs and experience, which are better understood through qualitative data.
And quantitative data, it must be remembered, are also collected in accordance with certain research vehicles and underlying research questions.
You will be familiar with many of these methods from your work and from MA, MSc or BA study already.
Interviews enable face to face discussion with human subjects.If you ask open questions such as ‘what do you think about the increase in traffic?’ you could elicit an almost endless number of responses.If you are going to use interviews you will have to decide whether you will take notes (distracting), tape the interview (accurate but time consuming) rely on your memory (foolish) or write in their answers (can lead to closed questioning for time’s sake).If you decide to interview you will need to draw up an interview schedule of questions which can be either closed or open questions, or a mixture of these.This would give you a very good idea of the variety of ideas and feelings people have, it would enable them to think and talk for longer and so show their feelings and views more fully.But it is very difficult to quantify these results.Data is often used to generate new hypotheses based on the results of data collected about different variables.One’s colleagues are often much happier about the ability to verify quantitative data as many people feel safe only with numbers and statistics.Look at the very brief outlines of different methods below.Consider which you intend using and whether you could also find it more useful to combine the quantitative with the qualitative.